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Sunday, October 09, 2005

The dissertation is in the hands of the committee

My defense will take place on Oct. 17. Assuming all goes well, a major phase of my life will be over, and a great burden will be off my shoulders.

Now, presumeably, I can do all the things I've been putting off till the dissertation was done. I can write novels and poetry and blog every day and argue with Dave Armstrong and keep in touch with all my friends. . . .

Of course, I also have to find a full-time job!

But right now, while still very nervous about the defense, I do feel a great relief. I celebrated today by going to see the movie Serenity (I haven't darkened the doors of a movie theater for a while). I strongly recommend it. As with many movies (especially science fiction), the ending is not quite up to the promise of what has come before. (The same was true, for instance, of Minority Report.) But I still think it's one of the best science fiction movies I've ever seen. Like all the sf I really like, it's deeply theological. I suspect that Joss Whedon (the director) thinks he's made a movie that criticizes the religious right. But in fact he's made a great anti-Pelagian movie. The film is a robust condemnation of what the Catholic Catechism rather inaccurately calls millenialism--the belief that human effort can bring in the Kingdom. As the main villain (definitely one of the great movie villains of all time) puts it: "I believe in a better world; a world without sin."

Christians, of course, believe in a world without sin. (And thus I suspect that Whedon thinks he's attacking Christianity, or at least some forms of Christianity.) But we do not believe that social engineering will bring about such a world. And the history of Christian attempts to create a righteous society (along with the far more horrifying such attempts made by secularists, not to speak of Islamic examples) bear out the premise of Serenity that the result of any such endeavor is death and monstrous evil.

In its own way, Serenity can take its place alongside the Passion of the Christ as a way to introduce people to Christian ideas. Gibson's much-criticized Pilate could be an agent of Whedon's Alliance. (Or more accurately, the Alliance is the 26th-century equivalent of the Roman Empire.) When you are trying to create a peaceful world through force, you have no room for truth. You crucify it. When people see the brutality of the Passion and complain that Gibson doesn't show the reason for it, one answer might be, "Go watch Serenity." It's as good a way as any I know to start a discussion about the pervasive nature of sin and the inadequacy (far worse than inadequacy, in fact) of any political or social cure for human evil.

And it's just plain fun, for all its darkness. I laughed out loud repeatedly while watching it.

Note that this is not to say that the film doesn't contain some objectionable elements. There are always better ways to spend one's time. . . . But if you watch movies in general, then don't pass this one up.


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Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Edwin! I've been out of touch for a while, so I didn't know about this milestone. This is wonderful news. How did the defense go? (Swimmingly, I'm sure!)

Anonymous said...

Oops---above comment was from Diane Kamer :)

Contarini said...


Thanks! The defense went much better than I expected. I felt euphoric for a day or two, and then started worrying about job applications . . . . I guess that's life. But all in all I do feel much better.

Viki59 said...

Your review of Serenity is right on and great! I wish I had written it. And you're absolutely right in your analysis.
Serenity is one of my favorites also. I keep learning new things about it, and your review is one of the best.